Tooth Sensitivity and Exposed Roots: What Can Be Done?

Tooth Sensitivity and Exposed Roots: What Can Be Done? By Danny O'Keefe D.D.S. on March 02, 2017

Do you feel a sharp pain in your teeth when you drink ice water or eat ice cream? You may feel a similar pain when you sip your morning coffee or have soup with lunch. If you are experiencing this kind of sensitivity, your tooth roots may be partially exposed. Dr. Danny O’Keefe offers restorative dentistry techniques at our Jackson, MS, office to treat tooth sensitivity and exposed roots.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity and Exposed Roots?

The hard, outer layer of our teeth is called the enamel. Despite being one of the hardest tissues in the body, foods and drinks high in sugar or acids can erode the enamel over time. Beneath the enamel is a porous layer called the dentin. This layer contains microscopic tubules to the inner tissues of the tooth, where the nerves and blood vessels are housed.

When hot and cold foods and drinks come into contact with the dentin, those temperatures pass through that layer, reaching the nerves. The nerves react, causing pain. Eroded enamel isn’t the only way the dentin becomes exposed, though.

Periodontitis, or gum disease, creates deepening pockets between the gums and the teeth. If left untreated, the gums will eventually begin to recede. This recession exposes the tooth roots. Unlike the crowns of our teeth, which are protected by enamel, our roots do not have this protective layer. If the gums recede, the dentin is immediately exposed.

Are There Treatments Available?

Although periodontal disease is a chronic condition, it is possible to get the disease under control, even if your roots have become exposed. Once the roots are exposed, the only treatment solution is gum surgery.

Also referred to as a soft tissue graft or gum grafting, this surgery will take tissue from another area, such as the roof of the mouth. This tissue is then transferred to the gums and stitched in place. This new tissue will cover the roots and provide them with much needed protection as you heal.

Prior to undergoing gum surgery, Dr. O’Keefe may recommend a deep cleaning. This is a more extensive cleaning than the standard twice-yearly dental cleaning. During a deep cleaning, we first must remove any large deposits of plaque and tartar from the gums and teeth in a process known as scaling. Then, using a technique called root planing, we smooth the tooth roots. By smoothing the surface, we make it more difficult for bacteria to attach and thrive there.

Schedule an Appointment

As with all things in dentistry, it is best to detect and treat gum disease early. If it has been more than six months since your last check up, give us a call to schedule your next appointment. Exposed tooth roots are not the only cause of tooth sensitivity, so if you are experiencing any pain, you should contact us right away. Dr. O’Keefe can thoroughly examine your teeth and gums to determine the cause of your sensitivity.